Boeun, Republic of Korea

General Information

Regional secretariat

Administrative status

County in North Chungcheong Province

Sansa, Buddhist Mountain Monasteries in Korea

Registration Year

2018

Historical function

Religious and spiritual

Location and site

The Sansa are Buddhist mountain monasteries located throughout the southern provinces of the Korean Peninsula. The spatial arrangement of the seven temples that comprise the property, established from the 7th to 9th centuries, present common characteristics that are specific to Korea – the ‘madang’ (open courtyard) flanked by four buildings (Buddha Hall, pavilion, lecture hall and dormitory). They contain a large number of individually remarkable structures, objects, documents and shrines. These mountain monasteries are sacred places, which have survived as living centres of faith and daily religious practice to the present.

Registration Criteria

Criterion (iii): Buddhism has a long history that has traversed a number of historical eras in the Korean Peninsula. The seven mountain monasteries – Tongdosa, Buseoksa, Bongjeongsa, Beopjusa, Magoksa, Seonamsa and Daeheungsa – offer a distinctively Korean instantiation of Buddhist monastic culture from the 7th century to the present day. These mountain monasteries are sacred places and provide an exceptional testimony to their long and continuing traditions of Buddhist spiritual practice.

Historical Reference

Sansa consists of seven Buddhist mountain monasteries—Tongdosa, Buseoksa, Bongjeongsa, Beopjusa, Magoksa, Seonamsa and Daeheungsa—located throughout the southern provinces of the Korean Peninsula. The seven monasteries established from the 7th to the 9th centuries have functioned as centres of religious belief, spiritual practice, and daily living of monastic communities, reflecting the historical development of Korean Buddhism. Sansa has accommodated diverse Buddhist schools and popular beliefs within its precinct, and many of its notable historic structures, halls, objects and documents reflect such assimilating features of Korean Buddhism. The distinctive intangible and historical aspects of Korean Buddhism can be recognized in the continuous traditions of self-sufficient temple management, education of monks, and coexistence of meditative practice and doctrinal studies of Korean Seon Buddhism. These mountain monasteries are sacred places, which have survived to the present as living centres of faith and religious practices despite suppression during the Joseon Dynasty and damages caused by wars and conflicts over the years.